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2019 FESTIVAL OF INDEPENDENT THEATRES

Eli Webb, Colby Calhoun and Valerie Collins in&nbsp;<i>The 1st Annual Gay Show</i>&nbsp;at Festival of Independent Theatres

FIT Review: 1st Annual Gay Show

The Very Good Dance Theatre makes its Festival of Independent Theatres mainstage debut with a satirical dance-theater piece about gender and race.



published Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Photo: Justin Locklear
Eli Webb, Colby Calhoun and Valerie Collins in The 1st Annual Gay Show at Festival of Independent Theatres

Dallas — Something smart, creative, penetrating, and funny is going on at this year’s Festival of Independent Theatres (FIT). While these adjectives can describe the festival itself, they are particularly applicable to The 1st Annual Gay Show, presented by Very Good Dance Theatre.

In addition to dance and theater, the show incorporates elements from stand-up comedy, poetry slams, and burlesque in an attempt to dismantle the heteronormative binary that still infests the beauty pageant format and its rigid constructs of beauty, talent, identity, and gender. But you don’t need a graduate degree in Gender Studies to understand it.

Very Good Dance Theatre premiered at last year’s FIT Underground with Elephant Antonyms, but this year the company moves to the mainstage with their devised work co-written by Colby Calhoun and William Acker in collaboration with the cast. Acker directs, and the talented—and busy—Danielle Georgiou serves as movement director and choreographer as well as sound designer.

The 1st Annual Gay Show (yes, its acronym is “F.A.G.S.”) bills itself as the first beauty pageant for queer and trans people of color, where contestants can be queer, trans, non-binary, or non-gender-conforming. They “just can’t be ugly.”

While the contestants themselves are indeed beautiful, their experience as queer/trans POC is anything but. The performers put the full ugliness of that experience center stage, from draconian laws dictating which public restrooms they are allowed to use to the very real existential threats of violence against black and brown bodies that purport to matter. Theirs is a world where a question like “What’s your real name?” can be as much a provocation as pointing a gun. The show takes the toxic mix of racism, transphobia, homophobia, and trans-/misogyny and transforms it into something defiantly optimistic — in effect, defanging the shame that serves as the pesky cornerstone of queer experience. As one performer exclaims, “I am extra!”

Gloria Benavides serves as the pageant’s MC, which in this context seems to stand for mother of ceremonies. Because of her brown skin, she gets a pass for calling the contestants “girls” and for her racist and homophobic comments toward them. Even though race doesn’t exist in any kind of biological or scientific sense, racism is nonetheless an equal opportunity system of oppression.

The four contestants are Christopher Lew, Eli Webb, Valerie Collins, and Calhoun. Each brings an athleticism, earnestness, and distinct kind of glamor to their roles, which appear to be parallel versions of their real selves. Jeff Burleson, a token white, cisgender, heteronormative “straight guy” has been planted in the audience.

The script, along with Georgiou’s choreography, propels the action as the actors prance, sashay, and vogue while also reciting statistics about violence against queer and trans POC, confessing their own vulnerabilities, taking pride in their hidden talents, expressing their heartfelt hopes for the future, and issuing a rally cry to #SayTheirNames. One beautiful moment involves a non-binary pas de deux in the background that shows off the elegance and grace of two bodies that aren’t defined purely by their biological sex or sexuality. And there’s plenty of candid affection and comic relief to offset the sometimes heavy-handed emotional weight.

Simple props, by Calhoun and Acker, and suitable costumes, by Acker, Calhoun, and Georgiou, keep the focus tight on the beauty pageant unraveling onstage. The show wants you to feel uncomfortable, but it also wants to inspire and transform you.

 

» The 1st Annual Gay Show is performed in the following performance blocks:

  • 2 p.m. Saturday, July 20
  • 8 p.m. Saturday, July 27
  • 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 1

» The 21st annual Festival of Independent Theatres runs through Aug. 3, 2019 at The Bath House Cultural Center. For more information, visit www.festivalofindependenttheatres.org or call 1-800-617-6904.

To see a breakdown of the groups and shows, go here.

To see reviews and more coverage of FIT, see our special section here.

 

2019 FESTIVAL SCHEDULE

*denotes first appearance in the festival

 

THURSDAY, JULY 18, 2019 (8 PM)

Leos Ensemble – small hours

Lily & Joan Theatre Company – Marilyn, Pursued by a Bear

 

FRIDAY JULY 19, 2019 (8 PM)

*Flexible Grey Theatre Company – Sky’s the Limit

*WingSpan Theatre, Co. – Jo & Louisa

 

FRIDAY JULY 19, 2019 (10 PM)

CABARET

*Jodi Crawford Wright in Songs My Mama Taught Me

 

SATURDAY, JULY 20, 2019 (2 PM)

WingSpan Theatre, Co. – Jo & Louisa

The Very Good Dance Theatre – The 1st Annual Gay Show

 

SATURDAY, JULY 20, 2019 (5 PM)

Flexible Grey Theatre Company – Sky’s the Limit

Lily & Joan Theatre Company – Marilyn, Pursued by a Bear

 

SATURDAY, JULY 20, 2019 (8 PM)

*Audacity Theatre Lab – The Beast of Hyperborea

*Imprint Theatreworks – Dirty Dirty Night Squirrel

 

SATURDAY, JULY 20, 2019 (10 PM)

CABARET

Kathryn Taylor Rose in Nobody Knows What They’re Doing

 

SUNDAY, JULY 21, 2019 (2 PM)

Imprint Theatreworks – Dirty Dirty Night Squirrel

WingSpan Theatre, Co. – Jo & Louisa

 

SUNDAY, JULY 21, 2019 (5 PM)

Audacity Theatre Lab – The Beast of Hyperborea

Flexible Grey Theatre Company – Sky’s the Limit

 

THURSDAY, JULY 25, 2019 (8 PM)

Audacity Theatre Lab – The Beast of Hyperborea

Bootstraps Comedy Theater – Nerve

 

FRIDAY, JULY 26, 2019 (8 PM)

Flexible Grey Theatre Company – Sky’s the Limit

Leos Ensemble – small hours

 

FRIDAY JULY 26, 2019 (10 PM)

CABARET

Jodi Crawford Wright in Songs My Mama Taught Me

 

SATURDAY, JULY 27, 2019 (2 PM)

Leos Ensemble – small hours

Lily & Joan Theatre Company – Marilyn, Pursued by a Bear

 

SATURDAY, JULY 27, 2019 (5 PM)

Imprint Theatreworks – Dirty Dirty Night Squirrel

WingSpan Theatre, Co. – Jo & Louisa

 

SATURDAY, JULY 27, 2019 (8 PM)

The Very Good Dance Theatre – The 1st Annual Gay Show

Audacity Theatre Lab – The Beast of Hyperborea

 

SATURDAY, JULY 27, 2019 (10 PM)

CABARET

Kathryn Taylor Rose in Nobody Knows What They’re Doing

 

SUNDAY, JULY 28, 2019 (2 PM)

Flexible Grey Theatre Company – Sky’s the Limit

Audacity Theatre Lab – The Beast of Hyperborea

 

SUNDAY, JULY 28, 2019 (5 PM)

WingSpan Theatre, Co. – Jo & Louisa

Imprint Theatreworks – Dirty Dirty Night Squirrel

 

THURSDAY, AUGUST 1, 2019 (8 PM)

Bootstraps Comedy Theater – Nerve

The Very Good Dance Theatre – The 1st Annual Gay Show

 

FRIDAY, AUGUST 2, 2019 (8 PM)

Lily & Joan Theatre Company – Marilyn, Pursued by a Bear

Imprint Theatreworks – Dirty Dirty Night Squirrel

 

FRIDAY, AUGUST 2, 2019 (10 PM)

CABARET

Jodi Crawford Wright in Songs My Mama Taught Me

 

SATURDAY, AUGUST 3, 2019 (2 PM)

Imprint Theatreworks – Dirty Dirty Night Squirrel

Audacity Theatre Lab – The Beast of Hyperborea

 

SATURDAY, AUGUST 3, 2019 (5 PM)

Flexible Grey Theatre Company – Sky’s the Limit

Leos Ensemble – small hours

 

SATURDAY, AUGUST 3, 2019 (8 PM)

WingSpan Theatre, Co. – Jo & Louisa

Bootstraps Comedy Theater – Nerve

 Thanks For Reading




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FIT Review: 1st Annual Gay Show
The Very Good Dance Theatre makes its Festival of Independent Theatres mainstage debut with a satirical dance-theater piece about gender and race.
by Frank Garrett

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